54 There is Hope! Alan introduces Donald Hoffman

29 Apr 2016

Alan starts remembering the pointing out instructions of Padmasambhava that he read yesterday. In the preface, Padmasambhava says he is pointing out to what he called by many different names: atman, middle way view, emptiness, tathagatagarbha, alaya, perfection of wisdom, and so forth. And then there are two phases: in the first he challenges us - “what do you mean ... Observe your mind!?” Just do it! In the second, he poses a hypothesis: “Is is that way or not? Observe your mind!” The first phase is shamatha, and the second, as he poses a question and we have to report what we see, that’s vipashyana. And this instructions are so inviting because Padmasambhava also says he is pointing out to “ordinary mind”, not something in a distant future. So, how deep we can penetrate? Can we see the luminous and cognisant aspects of consciousness, can we identify the relative nature of consciousness? That is where substrate consciousness is. Can we go deeper and penetrate our mind right to the substrate consciousness? The emptiness of our own awareness is there too. Can we realize it? And all of these is rigpa. Can we identify it? Very simple and very complete. But only for the simultaneous practitioners it is sufficient to see the ordinary mind, the substrate consciousness, the emptiness and rigpa only once. Why most of us cannot see rigpa, if we’re looking right where rigpa is? Alan talks then about the obscurations that prevent us to see rigpa. There are conative obscurations, related to desires: “I don’t want to. I’m busy! I have to make money and this is not profitable. It’s boring!” If we don’t have the aspiration, we’ll not dedicate ourselves twelve hours a day for months. It’s not gonna happen. A conative passion, renunciation, bodhicitta are indispensable. The second type of obscurations is the obsessive compulsive ideation, a very noisy mind - attention obscurations. But even if you have real interest and refined attention skills, there are still conate (we’re born with) and acquired cognitive obscurations - ignorance, delusion. Alan says he stands by this big generalization: the belief system of scientific materialism consists of acquired delusion. It’s not connate, we get educated, introduced to it, and so if you love science you have to go with this belief system. One of the major points of this belief system is that the mind is just an epiphenomenon of the brain. As meditators do not know anything about the brain, they need neuroscientists to tell them what is going on in their meditation. Among the scientific community, most materialistic groups of scientists among all the fields are cognitive scientists, although they know the least about matter. And the least materialistic are the physicists, like Thomas Hertog, Stephen Hawking, Anton Zeilinger, John Wheeler, Andrei Linde, Paul Davis - they’re casting off materialism and coming into adulthood. Meanwhile, the cognitive sciences are still in infancy, pretending they understand consciousness. Then Alan presents us Donald D. Hoffman - Professor of Cognitive Science, University of California, Irvine, PhD in MIT. But before proceeding, Alan cited this quote from “The Foolish Dharma of an Idiot Clothed in Mud and Feathers” where Düdjom Lingpa says that before you set out on the path, among body, speech and mind you have to investigate and know which one is primary. Düdjom Lingpa had a vision in a dream of a boy who said: “The body is like a paper bag blown by the wind”, including your brain, of course! “Speech is like the sound of air passing through a pipe. This mind is the creator of both samsara and nirvana. Among these three, identify which is primary!” So, Donald Hoffman address this question: among matter and mind, which is primary.

Click here to find his interview, “The Case Against Reality”.

Click here for his TED Talk.

Alan highlights this point, saying that it gives him hope: “The central lesson of quantum physics is clear: There are no public objects sitting out there in some preexisting space. As the physicist John Wheeler put it, “Useful as it is under ordinary circumstances to say that the world exists ‘out there’ independent of us, that view can no longer be upheld.”” Alan highlighted this paragraph too: “The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.” If Hoffman findings are true, science has undermined its own credibility. Because natural selection which gave rise to scientists has nothing to do with knowing reality as it is. There is no reason to believe that science is accurate, since we did not evolve to know reality as it is - we evolved to make babies and survive - if evolution is the whole story. To keep its integrity following this mathematical theorem, scientific community has to add another variable: in addition to natural selection, there is something else going on that gives us a drive to know reality as it is. It has nothing to do with evolution and that’s where credibility stands - the credibility of science stands outside of science. Alan discussed some more points of this interview: “The idea that what we’re doing is measuring publicly accessible objects, the idea that objectivity results from the fact that you and I can measure the same object in the exact same situation and get the same results — it’s very clear from quantum mechanics that that idea has to go. Physics tells us that there are no public physical objects.” Then Amanda Gefter asks Hoffman: “It doesn’t seem like many people in neuroscience or philosophy of mind are thinking about fundamental physics. Do you think that’s been a stumbling block for those trying to understand consciousness?” Hoffman: I think it has been. Not only are they ignoring the progress in fundamental physics, they are often explicit about it. They’ll say openly that quantum physics is not relevant to the aspects of brain function that are causally involved in consciousness. They are certain that it’s got to be classical properties of neural activity, which exist independent of any observers—spiking rates, connection strengths at synapses, perhaps dynamical properties as well. These are all very classical notions under Newtonian physics, where time is absolute and objects exist absolutely. And then [neuroscientists] are mystified as to why they don’t make progress. They don’t avail themselves of the incredible insights and breakthroughs that physics has made. Those insights are out there for us to use, and yet my field says, “We’ll stick with Newton, thank you. We’ll stay 300 years behind in our physics.” One more: “I’m emphasizing the larger lesson of quantum mechanics: Neurons, brains, space … these are just symbols we use, they’re not real. It’s not that there’s a classical brain that does some quantum magic. It’s that there’s no brain!” Last one: “As a conscious realist, I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world. I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. The experiences of everyday life—my real feeling of a headache, my real taste of chocolate—that really is the ultimate nature of reality.” Hoffman has just identified between mind and matter, which is primary. Consciousness is primary. Matter and brain don’t even exist except as symbols. Now, back to Düdjom Lingpa. He wrote Vajra Essence down during the heyday of mind eradicating scientific materialism with their brain washing. So, Düdjom Lingpa prophesizes: “This is for the future. This will flourish in the cities of the West.” Düdjom Lingpa says “this mind is the all creator sovereign”. Now, the question is: does the mind really exist, or mind is just one more symbol, one more name? Is mind real, does it originate from some place, is it located some place, does it really go some place? Where, where, where? Nada, nada, nada!

The meditation is on probing into the nature of the agent who is meditating, taught by Padmasambhava.

Alan quoted Einstein: “It is in fact the theory that determines what we can observe”. What can you observe and what you can not observe because of the belief you already have? Düdjom Lingpa' strategy is introducing us to the view of middle way, of emptiness and dependent arising. So we hear it, we think about it and then we view reality with the middle way view. Then once we deconstruct the reification of mind and all appearances to the mind, then we’re introduced to the Dzogchen view. When we view reality this way, the practice becomes very simple: we dispense with all activities that we embrace as a sentient being - recitations, prostration, mind wandering and so forth. These are all incompatible with the perspective of Dharmakaya in which there is nothing to achieve. We just get familiar with this view and then we’re ready for open presence. Then we view reality not from a marmot’s perspective but from Dharmakaya’s perspective. Nothing to do! But until then... let’s go back to motivation and let’s practice!

Meditation starts at 41:04


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